December 1999 archives
Ambitious plans to restore a forgotten landscape on the edge of Eastleigh have been given the green light. At a recent meeting of the Eastleigh Local Area Committee, Borough Councillors voted unanimously to support detailed proposals brought forward by countryside officers - a decision which has been endorsed by local people at a recent public meeting. Work can now begin on the major task of returning part of the historic North Stoneham Park to its former glory, as originally conceived by the celebrated eighteenth-century garden designer, Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.
More than two centuries after his death, Brown is regarded as one of the greatest landscape designers of all time. Few people can have made such an important and lasting contribution to the English landscape. Gardens at Longleat, Petworth, Chatsworth, Bowood and Blenheim are among his most significant achievements.
The restoration of Avenue Park will be undertaken by the Itchen Hamble Countryside Project, part of Eastleigh Borough Council, working in partnership with Hampshire County Council, landowners and local people. Work will be funded primarily through a Section 106 Planning Agreement, following redevelopment of the Stoneham Rectory site, three years ago.
Though many of the original features of the North Stoneham Estate have now gone - the old house was demolished in 1939 -much of the parkland remains intact and bears many of the hallmarks of Capability Brown's work, typified by a gently rolling landscape with informal clumps of parkland trees. Brown rejected the formal landscapes of his predecessors, typifying eighteenth-century ideals of our relationship with nature. At Stoneham, he removed formal tree-lined drives and introduced new planting and ponds to create a more natural landscape.
The current proposals seek to restore the landscape close to Brown's original vision. The proposals include clearing back scrub and brambles, planting trees, and installing traditional park fencing and kissing gates. A footpath following the line of the original entrance drive from Chestnut Avenue will also be created, enticing people into the centre of the park. A heritage trail will bring to life the rich history of the estate.
"This is an extremely exciting project. Capability Brown was possibly the most significant landscape designer of all time. His achievements read like a list of our finest stately homes, and to have some of his work on our doorstep is indeed a great privilege. However, to local people, the North Stoneham Estate offers much more than a prime example of eighteenth century landscape design. To them, Stoneham is important for different reasons. The overwhelming response to a recent request for information in the Borough News, is indicative of great importance that local people attach to this land. Childhood memories of a magnificent country estate have not faded with time. With their help, our officers have been piecing together a unique picture of what this area used to be like.
We believe that Avenue Park can be restored as a slice of living history, providing an outstanding resource for all local people to enjoy, and a place where wildlife can flourish.
Our committee commends these proposals. We urge you to give them your full support."
Cllr. W Luffman and Cllr P Wall, joint chairs, Eastleigh Area Committee, 1999